The Difference Between Growing Pains and a Serious Problem

What are Growing Pains?


As kids get older they tend to experience what parents often call “growing pains”. Growing pains can be described as crampy and achy muscle pains that occur in preschoolers and preteens. This pain can be felt in both legs and during almost any time of day, but commonly at night. Growing pains typically start around age 3 or 4 and strike again anytime around ages 8 to 12.


What Causes Growing Pains?


It’s thought that growing pains are an unfortunate side effect of growth spurts. However, there is no direct evidence that supports this theory. In fact, growing pains are more likely to be caused by intense childhood activities that wear them out, such as running, jumping, and climbing.


Growing Pain Symptoms


Like most things, growing pains are different for everybody. Some kids experience a lot of pain frequently and others don’t. Growing pains can come and go, as stated before, and are often outgrown within a few years.


The pain usually occurs late afternoon or evening, and can even wake a child up from sleep. In general, this pain is felt in both legs, especially around the quads, calves, and muscles behind the knees.


However, there is a difference between growing pains and a potentially serious problem.


When to Call a Doctor


As stated previously, growing pains are often associated with pain in the quads, calves, and muscles behind the knees. If children are experiencing pain that is long-lasting and accompanied by swelling, then those are not growing pains.

If your child experiences any of these other symptoms, you should contact their doctor:


  • pain associated with an injury

  • fever

  • limping

  • unusual rashes

  • loss of appetite

  • weakness

  • tiredness

  • unusual behavior


While growing pains are not linked to an injury or illness, they do cause extreme discomfort for children that experience them. Keep in mind, they often come at certain times, so don’t think your child is faking the pain because they don’t experience it all day.


If you are concerned about your child and their growing pains, you can always contact your doctor to ensure nothing more serious is going on.

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